MIAMI (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks was ruled out of Game 3 of his team’s Eastern Conference first-round series against the Miami Heat on Saturday night because of his ongoing back issue.
It’s the second full game that Antetokounmpo has missed in the series. He played only 11 minutes of Game 1, was ruled out for the remainder of that game after being diagnosed with a back contusion and then did not play Wednesday in Milwaukee’s series-tying Game 2 victory.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo is making progress.
“We’ll continue to monitor him, through the day tomorrow, through the day the next day,” Budenholzer said. “He’s not in a place where he can go, so we’ll just continue to monitor and work with him and hope for the best.”
Milwaukee entered Saturday 12-8 this season when Antetokounmpo doesn’t play in a game.
Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and one of three finalists — joining Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid — for the league’s top individual trophy this season. He averaged 31.1 points this season, fifth-best in the NBA, along with 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Antetokounmpo isn’t the only big name dealing with injuries right now.
Embiid sat out Philadelphia’s series-clinching win in Brooklyn earlier Saturday with a sprained right knee. The Los Angeles Clippers lost to Phoenix and fell into a 3-1 hole in that series after playing again without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — both, like Embiid, also dealing with sprained right knees.
Miami will be without last season’s Sixth Man award winner Tyler Herro for several weeks because of a broken hand that was surgically repaired on Friday. And Memphis guard Ja Morant has been dealing with a right hand injury as well.
“Every team, there’s a bond and there’s a desire to be there for each other,” Budenholzer said. “I think that just heightens the competitiveness, heightens the desire when Giannis or Kawhi Leonard or Joel Embiid (is out) and those teammates, they want to be there for a guy when he’s injured and can’t play. It’s a little bit of that human nature. It’s the playoffs. Hopefully those things have some positive impact, but you have to go out and play.”
Without Antetokounmpo in Game 2, the Bucks didn’t miss a beat. They led by as many as 36 points on the way to a 138-122 victory, one where Milwaukee made 25 3-pointers and shot 54% from the field.
Game 4 of the Bucks-Heat series is Monday in Miami. The teams were tied 1-1 entering Saturday’s contest.